The Black String
By Alistair Lawrence,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Psychological horror has swearing, violence, sex, and gore.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Mental illness is explored, but is intertwined with the supernatural. Drug use. Causal -- and unprotected -- sex.
Positive Role Models
Jonathan has a history of mental illness and addiction. He uses an adult phone line to arrange casual sex with a stranger. The two proceed to have unprotected sex. Jonathan then tries to save both himself and his date from mysterious forces.
Violence & Scariness
Minor scuffles. Punches thrown during fight scenes, bloody injuries shown afterwards. A character breaks a kitchen drawer when frustrated. Someone has to be restrained by their family. A character cuts their own arm in a bid to remove an infection. People are threatened with a knife. A character is smothered while in bed. Supernatural forces provide some gruesome and jumpy scares. A "black string" is pulled from a bloody wound. Close-ups of a mystery rash and blisters.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Multiple references to having sex and adult phone lines. A couple meet for casual sex. There is one sex scene, in which a character is shown stripped to their underwear. A character contracts what they think is a sexually transmitted disease after having unprotected sex. Reference to "rubbers" and "vaginas."
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Language includes "f--k" "f---ing," "t-ts," "d--k," "slut," "skank," "apes--t," "crackhead," "c--ksucker," and "bulls--t."
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Products & Purchases
The main character works in a liquor store. No overt product placement, but easily-identified alcohol and condoms feature in close-ups.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol is pictured in a liquor store. A customer buys cigarettes. Characters smoke pot and cigarettes. Reference to a character's addiction.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Black String is a horror movie that features psychological torment and adult themes, as well as references to mental health. Liquor store clerk, Jonathan (Frankie Muniz) finds himself dealing with increasingly bizarre and supernatural events after having unprotected sex with a girl -- Dena (Chelsea Edmundson) -- he meets through an adult phone line. The sex scene isn't explicit, but Dena is shown stripped to her bra. Strong language is casually used throughout, including variants of "f--k" and women are referred to as "sluts" and "skanks." There is some drug use when both Dena and Jonathan smoke pot independently. Several fight scenes range from minor altercations to punches being thrown -- resulting in minor, bloody injuries -- as well as knives being pulled. There is also graphic imagery after a character has been attacked in bed.
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The Black String
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What's the Story?
THE BLACK STRING follows Jonathan (Frankie Muniz) a disgruntled liquor store clerk with a history of mental illness and addiction. After a one-night stand, Jonathan tries to piece together what's behind a mysterious sequence of events that appear to be the work of a force that is trying to alienate him from his family and co-workers. It leads him into a world of paranormal conspiracies and deadly forces that are dismissed by others as his delusions.
Is It Any Good?
Although it has good intentions, this movie ends up being a convoluted and at-times confusing attempt to be a horror movie that tackles the stigma of mental illness. Not enough about Jonathan's belief in paranormal forces and his past troubles are set up during the first half of The Black String, resulting in a series of rushed reveals that still never really tell us much about the dark forces that Jonathan suspects are manipulating him.
Muniz gives a committed performance in the lead role, but it's never quite clear what Jonathan wants as he stumbles from one interaction to the next. That so few other characters feature prominently adds to movie's disjointed feel. The special effects are used sparingly and effectively, though, which does a good job in grounding a supernatural story in "reality."
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the portrayal of mental health in The Black String. How do Jonathan's friends and family behave toward him? What do you think the movie is trying to say about how we treat people with mental health problems? Does the movie contradict or reinforce stereotypes we might have?
How is sex depicted in the movie? Discuss the fact that Jonathan and Dena have unprotected sex. What are the consequences in the movie and what might they be in real life? Parents, talk about your own values when it comes to sex and relationships.
What scenes did you find most scary in the movie? What's the appeal of horror movies?
Jonathan uses the internet to diagnose what is wrong with him. What are the dangers of using the internet rather than going to a doctor?
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2019
- Cast: Frankie Muniz, Blake Webb, Chelsea Edmunson
- Director: Brian Hanson
- Studio: Grindstone Entertainment Group
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence/disturbing images, language throughout, some sexuality and drug use
- Last updated: January 2, 2023
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